Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The "Inception" Debate

Not since There Will Be Blood perplexed us all in 2007 can I recall a film being as passionately debated in regards to its position in the canon of great cinema as Inception. Some declare it a masterpiece, destined to be a classic. Some take umbrage with such ecstatic adulation, and have trashed the film mercilessly. On one hand, it's exciting to see such a flurry of discussion and conversation, which is what good art should do. But on the other, it's lead to petty mudslinging in some corners of the web and overblown implications of resentment between the bloggers and the print critics. It's quite unbecoming.

I didn't want to cheapen my own review with reference to anyone else's, but there's such a rich variety of opinions out there that they deserve some attention, and I've assembled some pieces that I think are worthy of a read.

Most reviews have been positive, but those who truly hate the film are a vocal few, the most notorious of which are The New York Observer's Rex Reed, Movie Line's Stephanie Zacharek, and New York Magazine's David Edlestein. I get a vibe from Zacharek's review that her beef is with the elan with which the film's champions sing its praises, and it's clear from Reed's article that he isn't communicating his dislike for the movie so much as his dislike for Nolan as a filmmaker. It's their right to feel that way, but it makes it difficult for me to put much stock in their opinions when they seem to be ranting more about issues peripheral to the film rather than the film itself. Edlestein, at least, attempts to explain what specifically bothered him, but still gets hung up on the fact that someone would dare brandish the word "masterpiece".

Someone like Anne Thompson, whose provocative comparisons to Kubrick and use of the word "masterpiece" represents the kind of enthusiasm from early online reviews that may well have irked the writers of more established outlets.

Another four-star rave, albeit a more apprehensive one, is that of Roger Ebert, who is careful not to put a big ol' bulls-eye on his review by adding that forbidden word, "masterpiece".

Meanwhile, the middle ground have been alienated and criticized to an extent by both of the extreme camps, but I find their thoughts just as interesting. They include the likes of the Chicago Tribune's Michael Philips, the Toronto Star's Pete Howell, and In Contention's Kris Tapley, who temper their positive reviews with legitimate reservations about the film. The other side of the fence is, I think, epitomized by the New York Times' A.O. Scott, who was disappointed by its artistic shortcomings, but defends its entertainment value.

And finally, just because I really enjoyed this one, I highly recommend this fascinating interpretation of the film by CHUD's Devin Feraci.


Anonymous said...

And then there's Armond White, who just hates a movie, simply to hate a movie.

And Feraci's article was brilliant.

I really don't quite understand the movie fully myself, but like you said, it's a movie that will require multiple viewings.

The Oscar Nazi said...

No kiddin' about Armond White. Seems to me like he hates most movies.

Anonymous said...

How about actually debating Armond's content instead of just blind generalisations because he doesn't like your crappy movies?

In other news: Inception is trash.